Via the Barnes & Noble Sci Fi & Fantasy Blog, Angry Robot Books and Kameron Hurley revealed the cover art for Empire Ascendant, the sequel to 2014’s The Mirror Empire, and one of my most anticipated novels of the year. As is typical for Angry Robot and artist Richard Anderson (responsible for many great recent covers, including “The Builders” by Daniel Polansky, The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley, and Time Salvager by Wesley Chu), it’s absolutely gorgeous.

“I was floored when I got the sketch for the cover of Empire Ascendant, and blown away by the final version,” Hurley told Joel Cunningham of the Barnes & Noble Sci Fi & Fantasy Blog. “It’s an extraordinary piece of art that perfectly captures the high stakes of the book and its key characters.”

“[I wanted] to contrast the massive, cold, army invading, with the calmness and strength of the two main characters at the table,” Anderson added.

About the Book

Loyalties are tested when worlds collide…

Every two thousand years, the dark star Oma appears in the sky, bringing with it a tide of death and destruction. And those who survive must contend with friends and enemies newly imbued with violent powers. The kingdom of Saiduan already lies in ruin, decimated by invaders from another world who share the faces of those they seek to destroy.

Now the nation of Dhai is under siege by the same force. Their only hope for survival lies in the hands of an illegitimate ruler and a scullery maid with a powerful – but unpredictable –magic. As the foreign Empire spreads across the world like a disease, one of their former allies takes up her Empress’s sword again to unseat them, and two enslaved scholars begin a treacherous journey home with a long-lost secret that they hope is the key to the Empire’s undoing.

But when the enemy shares your own face, who can be trusted?

The Mirror Empire was one of my favourite novels of 2014, and, no pressure, I expect the sequel to continue Hurley’s trend of pushing the boundaries of epic fantasy. Empire Ascendant will hit shelves on October 6, 2015 and is available now for pre-order.

Happiness for a Fish

Zhuangzi and Huizi cross a bridge over the Hao river. Minnows dart below, silvery and swift. Zhuangzi leans so far over the railing he almost falls. “They swim about so freely—they go wherever they like. That’s happiness, for a fish.”

Huizi crosses his arms; he realizes he’s wrinkling his silk gown, and crosses his arms differently so the gown’s sleeves hang smooth. “You’re not a fish,” he says. “On what basis do you claim to know what fish like?”

Zhuangzi turns back and raises one eyebrow in that way he knows pisses Huizi off. “You’re not me. On what basis do you claim to know what I know?”

We’ve all been there.

We sit across from a friend or an enemy at dinner, standing beside an acquaintance in a bar, we lean against a con party wall, we walk side by side along the river with a lover or a friend. Maybe the conversation skidded out when one of us mentioned unions or the inheritance tax, expecting reflexive “oh sure” agreement and finding a defensive, pointed entrenchment; maybe we’re talking about our feelings and they’re not listening; maybe they said something we find unconscionable, or the other way round. And we feel that hot pressure behind our forehead, because they are just… not… getting it.

We’re homo sapiens on paper, but sapientia’s worth squat without communication. When the first proto-human had her first thought, she looked around for someone to share it with. How many times do you think we, as a species, got that far without reaching the next step—without managing to say “Hey, check this out?”

Cognition research suggests that animals do a lot more of it, cogitating I mean, than we used to think, which won’t surprise anyone who’s tried to keep a poodle in their back yard, so it’s hard to say when that leap happened. We made it back when we were habilis, if not earlier. (And we’re not the only ones who did—whales have languages and dialects.) But still, every once in a while I think about those occasional isolated nodes, the stars that burned before there were other stars to shine against. Think about the loneliness of having a thought and not being able to pass it along.

And we go back there again and again—at the table, at the bar, near the wall, by the riverside, and for all our hundreds of thousands of years of practice, the gap from mind to mind seems uncrossable.

How do we talk to one another? Read More »

The Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

Yesterday, via CBC Books, Guy Gavriel Kay revealed new details about his upcoming novel, The Children of Earth and Sky, including its setting. Kay has a penchant to explore human history while building his fantasy worlds, delving deep into our planets’ myriad cultures and histories, and turning the stories we know slightly towards the fantastic. Fans always have fun speculating, so where’s The Children of Earth and Sky drawing inspiration from? The Mediterranean regions of Europe during the Renaissance.

“In The Children of Earth and Sky Kay returns to the familiar territory established in several earlier works,” said Oliver Johnson of Hodder & Stoughton, the novel’s UK publisher. “[It’s] a reimagining of the melting pot of the medieval Mediterranean. In his hands well-known places and events are transformed into the wonderful and strange through the lens of fantasy, and brought to life with brilliantly drawn characters and the most graceful of styles, which will seduce his many fans and new readers alike.” Read More »

Updraft by Fran Wilde

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 368 - Buy: Book/eBook
Buy Updraft by Fran Wilde: Book/eBook

Fran Wilde’s Updraft is set in a world unlike any I’ve visited before. High above the clouds, a city of bone scrapes the heavens, growing ever higher in its race to escape the blood-stained land below. People fly on wings of leather and bone, trading commodities and news between tower-based communities separated by miles of bottomless sky. Threats abound — including a sky that will (literally) swallow you whole in its toothy maw — but nothing is more dangerous than the ambitions and hidden loyalties of the people you most trust.

Updraft is a novel about family and privilege, succeeding through an almost overwhelming sense of empathy and courage. The novel’s protagonist and narrator, Kirit Densira, is a plucky youngster who idolizes nobody more than her mother Ezarit, one of the bravest traders in the bone city. Like her mother, Kirit is a boundry pusher, a trait quickly landing her in trouble with the Singers — the magic-wielding, iron-fisted governing body who rule from the Spire, a monolithic tower at the centre of the city. Kirit’s unending drive to upset Singer traditions, and to spill their secrets, is the lynch pin for the novel’s frenetic, politically-charged plot. Read More »

Interview with
James L. Sutter

In the world of tabletop fantasy roleplaying games, Pathfinder needs no introduction. Spawned from a group of developers seeing opportunity in the RPG space after the release of the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder — using the beloved Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition ruleset — has become one of the most popular RPGs in the world in just six short years.

Set in Golarion, a sprawling world with so much depth that even the most jaded fantasy reader is sure to find something that interests them, Pathfinder is so much more than just a tabletop RPG — it’s a setting for some of the best Sword & Sorcery novels being published today. With names like Tim Pratt, Max Gladstone, Liane Merciel, and Howard Andrew Jones attached, the Pathfinder Tales line of novels offers great adventure, magic, and pedal-to-the-metal action from some of fantasy’s most exciting writers.

So, I caught up with James L. Sutter, Executive Editor for Paizo Publishing and a co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, to chat about Pathfinder, being a novelist, building a world, and encouraging gamers the world over to become storytellers in their own right. Read More »